Facebook Removed 168 Accounts, 28 Pages, 8 Instagram Accounts in Moldova

Coordinated inauthentic behavior was taking place prior to the country’s Parliamentary elections

The activity originated in Moldova Facebook
Headshot of David Cohen

Parliamentary elections will be held in Moldova Feb. 24, and Facebook took steps to safeguard the vote in that country from manipulation via its platform.

Facebook head of cybersecurity policy Nathaniel Gleicher said in a Newsroom post that 168 Facebook accounts, 28 Facebook pages and eight Instagram accounts were removed for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior targeted toward people in Moldova.

The activity originated in Moldova, using a combination of fake accounts and authentic accounts to post about local news and political issues, such as requiring education in Russian or English, and reunification with Romania.

Manipulated photos, divisive narratives and satire were also part of the mix, as was impersonation of the page of a local fact-checking organization to call out other pages for spreading fake news.

Gleicher said some of the activity was traced to employees of the Moldovan government.

Some 54,000 Facebook accounts followed at least one of the removed pages, and roughly 1,300 Instagram accounts followed at least one of the removed accounts on that platform.

Gleicher said less than $20,000 was spent for ads on Facebook and Instagram, with payment in dollars, euros and Romanian leu.

He added, “We identified these accounts through our internal investigation into Moldova-linked coordinated inauthentic behavior. Our investigation benefited from a tip shared by a local civil society organization.”

Below are some examples of content from the banned pages:

Caption: Moldovans from Afghanistan – the electoral hostages of notPresident Dodon #VIDEO
Caption: How can you believe in this worthless news which only tell lies?
Caption: #ParliamentaryElections2019. Image text: I did not decide who to vote for
Caption: The high school principal was NOT beaten up by the PDM representatives! #StopFals
Caption: The ground underneath Moldova will shake with power. Headline: Attention: In Moldova is expected a very powerful earthquake!
Caption: STOP MANIPULATION! Headline: Conference “Misinformation as a propaganda tool: trends and regional impact”
Caption: Vlad Plahontiuc personally handed the DPM (Democratic Party of Moldova) membership card to Vasile Melinte. Headline: Vasile Melinte is the Moldovan hero who saved 70 people during the Greek fires, he just joined the DPM!
Caption: The socialist Dinari Cojocaru radically changed his rhetoric just one week later. Did he take money from the Bahamas company or not? What did you understand from this?

david.cohen@adweek.com David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.